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  • Writer's pictureWalter Ponce

Best things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Chiang Mai, surrounded by mountains, is ideal for travelers who love nature and culture. The largest city in northern Thailand has a population of approximately 132,000. It is located 700 km from the country's capital, Bangkok. In this Chiang Mai Guide I explain what to see and do in Chiang Mai so that you can make the most of your visit to this incredible Thai city.

What to see in Chiang Mai

The city of Chiang Mai stands out above all for its important cultural legacy: within its walls are more than 300 Buddhist temples -such as the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple or the Wat Phra Singh temple-, some of the most outstanding universities in the country or various relevant festivals, such as Songkran, the Thai new year.

Chiang Mai's origins date back to the 13th century, during the Lanna kingdom, who decided to replace the old capital, Chiang Rai, with Chiang Mai. Hence the name of the city, which means "new city". The atmosphere in the city of Chiang Mai is calmer and more relaxed than that of the capital, Bangkok. Both the city and its surroundings are perfect for travelers who enjoy discovering the past and history of destinations and also for those who seek to connect with nature.

Here my favorite spots that you cannot mis:

Temples! and more Temples!

Wat Phra Singh Temple

One of the outstanding places to see in Chiang Mai is the Wat Phra Singh Temple, one of the emblems of the city of Chiang Mai. This temple is located in the old quarter of the city, in the Mueang Chiang Mai district. It was built in the year 1345, and in 1935 King Ananda Mahidol (Rana VIII) granted it the status of Royal Temple.

It is a temple that is highly revered by the locals, since within the complex is the Phra Singh Buda, a statue of Buddha . This is a statue with a long history, since it is said that it was brought from India, passing through Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and Ayutthaya, and that during the journey it suffered several robberies until finally reaching the temple where it is located. at the moment. During the Songkran festivities, the Buddhist New Year, this statue is paraded through the streets of the city.

Wat Chedi Luang Temple

Despite its appearance of ruins, the Wat Chedi Luang Temple is one of the most relevant in the city of Chiang Mai . It was built in 1401 by the will of King Tilo-Garaj and a century and a half later, in 1541, it suffered serious damage due to an earthquake. If you are visiting the Wat Chedi Luang temple you cannot miss: The City Pillar, used in the past for fertility rites The reclining golden Buddha inside the temple The image of the monk Bhuridatto, revered by Buddhists since the 19th century.

Wat Phan Tao

Although it is not one of the best-known temples, its visit is recommended as it is next door to Wat Chedi Luang. It is from the same period as its neighbor, although its structure and teak roof, the most remarkable thing about this temple, are from the 19th century. The golden carving of a large peacock stands out above the main entrance (it was the symbol of the kings of Chiang Mai). At the back of the temple you can walk a corridor on bamboo sticks, you will see a beautiful garden with a pond and the figure of a Buddha under a sacred tree of more than 200 years of age.

Wat Chiang Man

It is the oldest temple in the city, it is estimated that it was built in the year that Chiang Mai was founded, around the year 1296 . In fact, according to legend, it was the first home of King Mengrai while the city was rising. Its main treasure are two ancient Buddha statues ( Phra Sila, the marble Buddha, 2,500 years old, and Phra Satang Man, the glass Buddha, 1,800 years old), which are kept in a cabinet in the viharn. right secondary.

The oldest part of the temple is located behind the main temple and corresponds to the beautiful pagoda Chedi Chang Lom ("chedi between elephants"), with a square base on some elephant statues and with the upper part bathed in gold, the truth is that It is one of the most attractive in the city. In the ubosot placed to the left of the main temple, a stone from the 16th century is preserved with an inscription in an ancient local language that narrates the creation of Chiang Mai and this temple.

Wat Lok Molee

It is a temple rarely visited by tourists, as it is outside the walled (or rather "plastered") recital, right in the northern part, but it seems to us without a doubt one of the best temples in Chiang Mai. There are typical elements of Thai Buddhist temples, none that stand out from other temples, but the set itself is very interesting. The main viharn has a beautiful metal façade with stone inserts and behind it stands an ancient 14th century stupa . The entrance to the enclosure is guarded by the statue of two huge elephants and during the walk we can find some rare Hindu images in the corners of the garden.

Sunday Walking Street market

Despite being a quiet city, on Sunday afternoons and evenings you can attend the Sunday Walking Street, its largest night street market. A market with a very authentic atmosphere that makes it one of the markets you have to see in Chiang Mai.

The streets of Chiang Mai are filled with atmosphere, artisan products and the best Thai cuisine.

Sunday Walking Street is located on and around Thanon Ratchadomnoen street. Hundreds of merchants have their stalls that attract both travelers and the local people themselves. Markets in Thailand When it occurs? This market is open every Sunday from 4 pm to midnight. It is advisable to go in the early afternoon, when there are still not so many people. Around 9:00 p.m. is when most of the people gather and it can be a little more difficult to walk calmly.

On Saturdays there is a similar market, the Saturday Walking Street , but it is smaller. To visit it, it is necessary to go to the south of the city, in the Wualai Road area. In this case, the hours are from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., every Saturday.

Eat at the Night Market

If you enjoy street food , in the night markets of Chiang Mai you will find one of the best street foods in the country. The night markets, or night bazaar, offer all kinds of Thai food , such as noodles, rice or stir-fried vegetables. Among the typical dishes of the region are laab , a dish based on minced meat, or nam prik ong , a kind of ragout.

Give yourself a Thai massage

In Chiang Mai, as in the rest of Thailand, you can enjoy a good Thai massage. In Thailand, massages are very common and are generally very affordable. If you want to relax, a good option is to opt for a massage with hot aromatic oils or herbs. The typical Thai massage is usually more intense and with therapeutic purposes. There are many massage centers in Chiang Mai, such as the Cheeva Spa or the Green Massage Spa , which offer the best massages in the city.

Let me know what else you would like to add to the list!



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